“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So get on your way!” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
The internet age has ushered in a new and exciting era of travel. With a computer or cell phone, almost anyone can now quickly research, locate and book all kinds of trips in almost any corner of the globe. Multilingual websites and online translation tools have bridged language barriers, making it much easier to plan a trip than before. While there certainly still is a need for professional travel agents and package tours, those who have the time and interest can do most of the planning work themselves.
There are so many great travel planning websites and blogs available now, most of them free to use, but listed below are the ones that I enjoy using:
1. skyscanner.net (air travel) – This site has become my default choice for finding the best flight options for both international and domestic flights. I like the ease of searching for different flight options (multi-city, international, flexible dates), and the prices for airfares are great, too!
2. booking.com (hotel reservations) – While Airbnb and Couchsurfing get a lot of attention these days, I find myself using booking.com most often. I like the search feature that allows using a map to find properties in a desired area, and the flexible cancellation policy without any prepayment. The handy mobile phone app is great for travelers on the go – it allows you to see all your future bookings at a glance, make changes/cancellations and book your next stop.
3. The Man in Seat 61 (rail travel) – In a blog site focused at rail and sea travel, I have to list this site as a personal favorite. While not an actual booking site, this wonderful resource is full of train travel planning info spanning six different continents. Helpful tips on how to buy tickets, pictures of the trains,and tips from recent travelers make this a great site to peruse – even for dreaming of where you might want to go next!
4. vacationstogo (cruise travel) – This site, dedicated mainly to cruise ship travel, has a handy search engine that allows you to pick the timeframe, cruise line, ship and ports. It allows you to see the very lowest prices and seasonal discounts. You can also book cruises directly with this company. On a recent cruise, I heard a woman speaking French to her friend, and the only phrase I recognized during the conversation was “vacations-to-go!”
5. Google maps (directions and ground transport planning) – There are a number of navigational aids and apps available, but I prefer using Google maps to help me decide what kind of ground transport option to choose upon arrival. It is also helpful for choosing hotels that are walkable to key sites and train stations. From a general trip planning perspective, it shows driving times between cities and allows you to plan a workable itinerary for a multi-city trip.
Other websites I have used and like:
- Rome2rio – helpful for long-distance travel planning
- Rail Europe – for purchasing European train tickets
- Maris Freighter Cruises – one of the few resources on this unique mode of travel (for more info on freighter travel, please see my post about a transoceanic trip)
- Airbnb – for finding and booking private accommodation in guest homes